Flick (2000)

D: Fintan Connolly
S: David Murray, Isabelle Menke

Moody no-budget Irish feature film following the adventures of a disaffected middle-class white small time Dublin drug dealer (David Murray) who finds himself in over his head when his shortsighted partner (David Wilmot) hooks them up with some real gangsters. Amid wanderings through Dublin night clubs and other city hot spots for the casual drug trade, he meets a sexy German girl (Isabelle Menke) with whom he strikes up a relationship which might prove to be his redemption, if he survives the increasing attentions of both the police and the Dublin underworld. For a film shot more or less ad hoc on the streets of Dublin by writer/director Fintan Connolly (mostly known for documentary work) with a minimum of technological sophistication, Flick isn't half bad. It has a distinctive tone which is matched by David Murray's smoothly self-involved performance as the central character. One comes away with a definite feeling of the brooding angst of the new entrepreneurial opt-out class in middle class Celtic Tiger Ireland, and though it is really so much navel-gazing on the road to a silly resolution, it works on its own terms.

Flick is arguably as morally irresponsible as many recent gangster films including Guy Ritchie's super-hyphenated frag fests Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Certainly its hero is a largely unrepentant drug dealer whose only mistake is being unable to see what a fool his partner is. Though he gets knocked about quite a bit in the course of the film, the character ultimately comes away not so much morally redeemed as hounded out of his profession by circumstance. There is never any sense of a deeper seated urgency about the film's study of contemporary urban crime and criminals. It is not meant to be that type of film, of course, which is just as well given the recent Ordinary Decent Criminal (shot at the same time on a much larger budget with much less satisfying results). Yet it is careful to delineate the 'good' drug dealers from the 'bad', as our hero deals only in hash and sells to small groups of selected hip and trendy customers, doing no one any particular harm, as it were. Meanwhile the heavies are archetypal psycho-killer maniacs with dealings in the harder stuff in all senses of the word.

On the whole the script concentrates on action, evoking a sense of Dublin at night that few foreign or indigenous films have attempted to capture (no landmarks, no carefully composed and painstakingly lit shots of various street corners and major buildings: but lots of night clubs, bars, alleys, and, when the mood requires them, quiet backstreets). Part of the reason for this is budget, of course, which is also why there is relatively little dialogue during crowd scenes (the sound quality on the whole is fair to poor). But this is also a case of working within ones limitations, and Connolly has been clever about it rather than simply churning out a more amateurish-looking version of a bigger-scale film. He has kept the action tightly focused on the central character and so allows us to see the world through his (limited) vision of the urban landscape.

There are one or two cringeworthy dialogue scenes though, especially ones featuring Murray and his estranged girlfriend (which evoked widespread unintended laughter at the screening I attended). The ending is particularly bogus, employing hoary old Irish movie clichés to wrap things up which the film has otherwise been more or less careful to avoid. There are one or two other points where the budgetary seams begin to show, such as the long opening shot of a plane landing which seems too much like the director trying to stretch the running time to feature length. It is not entirely original: movies about wandering semi-remorseful low-lifes are part of a long tradition in both European and American cinemas, but it does have the benefit of being more or less the first Irish film of its kind and tone arguably since Neil Jordan's Angel (which it vaguely resembles in some ways). It is also interesting that the film features a drug dealer who neither lives in a ghetto nor a palace, but spends as much time lounging on his couch in the nice apartment he shares with his girlfriend on Dublin's southside as he does politely meeting and greeting his customers in town.

Flick is not a masterpiece, but in the manner of November Afternoon or How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate, it has the merit of accomplishing what it sets out to do. It is a modestly scaled, no-star, small crew production which works considerably better than many of its more elaborate, higher budget equivalents.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2000.